How to Seal Out Formaldehyde from your wood furniture?

Particleboard and other composite wood products are almost always made with formaldehyde and the chemical never out-gasses fully because formaldehyde is structurally part of the final “wood” product.
Common reactions to short-term exposure to formaldehyde are eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can cause cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most contemporary furniture that is affordable is made of particleboard, and trailers and other small enclosed spaces are notorious for having sickening amounts of formaldehyde. FEMA trailers sent to house displaced families in the aftermath of Katrina were found to emit up to 400 times the legal limits of formaldehyde.
Following the state of California’s lead, a bill is being proposed in Congress to set federal limits in the amount of formaldehyde allowed in products used in the home. Currently, there is
>no federal standard for formaldehyde emissions in most homes. California standards restrict formaldehyde-emissions to about 0.09 parts per million. The proposed federal bill will go into effect by January 2012

All well and hopeful, but what to do in the meantime?

Seal out formaldehyde fumes using AFM sealants

For over a quarter of a century, AFM has been the leading innovator in paint and building products with reduced toxicity to preserve indoor air quality. Their Safecoat® products have earned the industry’s highest environmental and indoor air quality certifications, including Scientific Certification Systems’ Indoor Advantage Gold certification, and they satisfy LEED standards.

Safe Seal

Safecoat Safe Seal is a multi-use, water-based, low gloss sealer for highly porous surfaces such as particle board, plywood, processed wood and porous concrete. Used primarily to reduce toxic out-gassing: in particular, it is highly effective at sealing in formaldehyde out-gassing from processed wood such as plywood, particle board and pressed wood. Safecoat Safe Seal is virtually odorless on application and odorless once cured.


Download Safe Seal Spec Sheet PDF

Hard Seal

Safecoat Hard Seal is a multi-use, clear gloss sealer especially formulated to provide more resistance to both low and high porosity surfaces. Because it forms a continuous membrane when applied properly, it is particularly effective at sealing in any pollution or toxic chemical compounds out-gassing from the surface to which it is applied.

Download Hard Seal Spec Sheet PDF


Safecoat MexeSeal is a low odor, water-based, medium gloss clear sealer. It is suitable for use on porous interior tile or masonry surfaces where oil and water repellency are desired. It is ideal for long term protection against food, oil and water stains on residential or commercial floors. Safecoat MexeSeal is non-hazardous and non-flammable – a total replacement for high solvent content systems.


Download MexeSeal Spec Sheet PDF

–by Annie B. Bond, author of five books on green living, including True Food (National Geographic, 2010), and Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999). For more visit

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  • Hello,
    This is a very nice post and the reason for that is the fact that information given in it is very rare and unique. I am sure that not many people would know about it.
    Outdoor Furniture

  • Fred Block

    do you just need to seal any exposed edges; i.e. areas not covered with laminate or veneer, or seal the entire surface

  • guest

    Many items have made us sick. Recently, art made in China. The fumes made my head spin. Also, furniture made in China. Very strong smells that made us all sick.

  • farawayplace

    We added a wood with white verneer kids bunkbed probably made in China, and it is making my wife really sick. She cpughs and hacks, weak body. We live in Korea. Apparently, there is a EPA number assigned, and what can be legally sold here will not meet US requirements. Now we have to get rid of it, and we will lose hundreds of dollars. We have had it a month, and my wife is getting worse. She was fine before we bought the bed. Doctor can’t figure it out, but we are sure this is it, because she is also sensitive to some paints.